US Officials Meet Gaddafi Envoys

Washington, Jul 19 (IANS) US officials had met representatives of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during the weekend in a bid to press him to step down, media reports said.

The meeting took place Saturday in an undisclosed third country and involved three senior US diplomats - including Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman - and four senior members of the Gaddafi government, Xinhua reported.

The US' purpose for the meeting was to deliver a "clear and firm message" that Gaddafi must step down.

A spokesman of the Libyan government said the meeting was held in Tunisia, said the reports.

Musa Ibrahim called the talks "a first step". "We welcome further steps," he said.

"We are ready to discuss ideas to move forward, make sure that people are not harmed any more, that this conflict comes to an end and that the damaged relationship between Libya and the US and other NATO countries can be repaired," Ibrahim was quoted as saying by CNN.

An unnamed US official said the meeting was not for negotiation and there were no plans to meet Gaddafi representatives again, CNN said.

In Washington, the official said the purpose of the meeting was "for us to convey directly that Gadhafi must go".

A senior State Department official called the three-hour session in Tunis "a one-time meeting to send a clear message", and not the start of negotiations.

The US has recognised Libya's opposition National Transitional Council as the sole and legitimate representative of the Libyan people.


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